PORTLAND, Ore. — Mayor Ted Wheeler gave a wide-ranging speech on homelessness, housing and mental health Thursday morning. In it, he talked about progress he said his administration has made over the past two years.
The mayor also talked about challenges, including criticism of his leadership over the homeless crisis.
"One of my best friends told me the other night, 'You have failed, you have failed, you have not addressed the homeless crisis,'" Wheeler said.
Wheeler went on to say, "In our city, I have to give you a sense of encouragement. We are in fact making progress. It doesn’t come quickly and it doesn’t come cheaply."
The mayor made his remarks in front of a full house at the Multnomah Athletic Club ballroom. The Oregon Health Forum made him the keynote speaker.
The mayor said they've doubled the investment with Multnomah County to $60 million dollars a year, providing more outreach, shelters, affordable housing, mental health care and other services.
The mayor touted getting 6,000 people the help they need to get off the streets and out of shelters and into housing.
One man at the event took Wheeler on, criticizing him for how he described the clearing of homeless camps.
This is a mayor who is taking heat. And, it seems, openly pondering whether this issue will make him a one-term leader in Portland.
"If I don't serve more than two years beyond today, it will be on this question: How do we maintain the rights and dignity of people living on our streets and balance that with the rights of others in the community?" Wheeler said.
According to a report in The Oregonian/OregonLive, Wheeler could be heard muttering "I cannot wait for the next 24 months to be over," after he finished the speech.
Later Thursday morning, Wheeler released a statement downplaying the comment, and said he has not decided whether to seek re-election.